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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this August 7, 2015 file photo, Stavros (left), 7, and Augie Pappas (second from left), 5, along with Rhiannon (right), 7, Lorelai (second from right), 5, and Tristan Sandefur, 3, listen from the balcony to the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program's Sandwiching in History tour at the Oak Forest United Methodist Church on Fair Park Blvd. The church, built in 1949, was designed by Little Rock architect John Parks Almand. The interior is finished in both clear Red Oak and California Redwood. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Throughout Little Rock, some neighborhoods see a national historic designation as an opportunity to reap tax benefits and foster a sense of pride in their communities.

At a brainstorming session of members of the Fair Park Residents Association, two top concerns floated to the surface: remedying the number of vacant houses and becoming a historic district.

Those residents are exploring the possibility of getting the Oak Forest area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area in focus is loosely defined as south of West 12th Street, north of 28th Street, east of Taylor Street and west of Tyler Street, city urban designer Brian Minyard said at an informational session for residents Tuesday evening, emphasizing that those boundaries are subject to change as the process moves forward.

The neighborhood, which sits south of Interstate 630 and north of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's main campus, is filled with tree-lined streets and older homes with brick facades and iron porch railings.

The National Register of Historic Places is the federal government's official list of the country's historic buildings, districts, sites, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation. It's overseen by the National Park Service.

Ralph Wilcox, national register and survey coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, said Pulaski County probably has the most historic districts of anywhere in Arkansas.

There are 21 districts on the national register throughout Little Rock. The largest is the Hillcrest district, and other districts create a patchwork over downtown and central Little Rock, encompassing the Central High, Governor's Mansion and MacArthur Park neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods on the national register generally have common themes, such as development or architectural style, Wilcox said.

Gaining the designation is a yearslong process, Minyard said. First, residents must survey the area to determine the number of properties that contribute to the designation versus those that don't.

Contributing properties are defined as those that make the historic district significant. They must be at least 50 years old, not significantly changed since their construction and "reflect what makes the district important," Wilcox said.

Homeowners and landlords with property within a national historic district are eligible for a rehabilitation tax credit for restoring their property.

Resident Beryl Rushefsky said his interest in gaining the designation stems from a desire for preservation and to increase the value of homes in the neighborhood, even though his home would be a noncontributing property because of an addition put on before he owned it.

"We're hoping it would encourage people to maintain their properties," he said. "Anything we can do to foster a sense of pride in this neighborhood is good."

Metro on 07/07/2019

Print Headline: Little Rock neighbors envision historic-site listing

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